Opinion: “Free speech” isn’t that simple

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Lyotard shifted attention away from the content of free speech to the way certain topics restrict speech as a public good. Some things are unmentionable and undebatable, but not because they offend the sensibilities of the sheltered young. Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.

When one person’s “free speech” is a dismissal of others’ humanity or a demand that others justify their humanity, the latter are either treated as non-participants in the debate or have their participation limited to defending their right to be there–which means they don’t truly have free speech themselves. Thus:

It has been regrettably easy for commentators to create a simple dichotomy between a younger generation’s oversensitivity and free speech as an absolute good that leads to the truth. We would do better to focus on a more sophisticated understanding, such as the one provided by Lyotard, of the necessary conditions for speech to be a common, public good. This requires the realization that in politics, the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.

pub. 04/2017

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Video: How to protect your digital privacy during a protest

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pub. 04/2017

The Intercept has produced a three-minute video of tips to protect your identity, location, and communications from authorities who might surveil protestors or try to access your phone during arrest. If you’re off to a protest, even what you expect to be a peaceful one, it couldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes preparing.

The video is the beginning of a series, Cybersecurity for the People, that will cover other privacy and security measures regular folks can take as activists or to retain greater control over their everyday digital lives.

For more tips and resources, see the Resources lists, What to Do and What to Read.

Who becomes politically activated, and why?

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Called “suddenly imposed grievances” or “moral shocks” by researchers, events like Three Mile Island and the 2016 presidential election are galvanizing political forces because they generate intense concern, and people who become the most politicized are those most outraged and directly threatened by the grievance. Since tech is uniquely under threat both ideologically and economically, it is exactly the industry one might expect to take on a new activist vigor. This also sheds light on the lack of response in other industries….

… At the moment, those opposing him are the loudest. But beyond the industry’s business interests and values, there’s another reason why tech employees are more vocal than workers in other sectors: because they can afford to be.

pub. 03/2017

Uncomfortable but possibly necessary strategies to beat Trump & Co

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Don’t get sucked into the futile squabbling cul-de-sac of intersectionality and grievance politics. Look at this roster of speakers from the January 21 march. What is Angela Davis doing there? Where are the military women, the women police officers, the officeholders? If Planned Parenthood is on the stage, pro-life women should stand there, too. If you want somebody to speak for immigrants, invite somebody who’s in the country lawfully.

Since his acceptance speech in Cleveland, Donald Trump has made clear that he wants to wage a Nixon-style culture war: cops against criminals, soldiers against pacifists, hard hats against hippies. Don’t be complicit. If you want to beat him, you have to reject his categories.

pub. 02/2017

 

We’re on our way!

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Trump will try hard during his presidency to create an atmosphere of personal munificence, in which graft does not matter, because rules and institutions do not matter. He will want to associate economic benefit with personal favor. He will create personal constituencies, and implicate other people in his corruption. That, over time, is what truly subverts the institutions of democracy and the rule of law. If the public cannot be induced to care, the power of the investigators serving at Trump’s pleasure will be diminished all the more.

pub. 03/2017

The executive branch is counting on pushback and still getting what it wants

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When the dust settles, we have 100% of the Executive Order we originally wanted, we’ve tested the loyalty of a department we’ll need later on, we’ve proven we can ignore an entire branch of government, and we’ve slipped in some subtle moves that will make the next test even easier.

We’ve just tested the country’s willingness to capitulate to a fascist regime.

pub. 01/2017